Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Golden Compass: condemnation vs. discernment

I've received at least two emails warning me about the upcoming film, The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman. The film is based off a trilogy from British author Philip Pullman. The controversy stems from the fact that Pullman is an open atheist and his trilogy, His Dark Materials, has anti-religious themes. Christians are concerned that children will become interested in reading the books by watching the film, then become unknowingly influenced with an anti-religious message. Supposedly, at the end of the trilogy (spoilers!) the main characters kill God in a Garden-of-Eden-styled fruit eating ceremony. I have not read any of the books, so I am basing this entirely on third-party information (which is why the former sentence begins with 'supposedly'). Here is the link from both emails I've received.

There is a growing number of people speaking against the film. A Facebook group boycotting The Golden Compass has over 50,000 members. An American Catholic group has accused Pullman of having a conspiracy to bait children with the film so that they'll be introduced to the books, thus indoctrinating them with subtle messages of atheism.

It seems that this is just one more thing that Christians are against. This makes me sad, because there are so many beautiful things that Christians should be for--like loving people. I also find it sad that a large amount of Christians are quick to condemn instead of quick to discern. It's much easier to call something evil and avoid it rather use God-given wisdom from the Holy Spirit to lovingly engage it.

Would it be better for parents to prevent their children from watching the films--sending the message that we are to create barriers between ourselves and the world using uninformed logic? Or would it be healthier to watch the film with their children, discuss the themes, and have a conversation about what the film communicates--sending the message that we are to intelligently engage the world using wisdom and discernment?

I vote for the latter.


  1. Joel, I share the same thoughts but have never been able to express them in words. I agree wholeheartedly to what you have said and will definitely use it in conversation. I remember arguing with other Christians online about seeing The Da Vinci Code to find out what it's about first before you go and boycott it as most of them refused to watch or read it in the first place. It's a hard topic to argue, but I'm glad that we share the same thoughts.

    On a related note, I'm not rushing out the door to watch The Golden Compass because it just doesn't look very entertaining to me; not because I disagree with the author's intentions. Still, I wouldn't rule out the movie as a whole.

  2. so interesting that you wrote on this. a coworker- not a believer- just was asking me if i was going to see it b/c all these christians were upset about it (etc)....i, unlike cam, have actually been wanting to see it. i am a big fan of adventure-fantasy and there is not enough made in this genre. completely agree with what you wrote. cool to hear your thoughts. obivously not taking the kids- but while we need to protect them, through certain ages, training is constant.

  3. Cam-
    Glad we're on the same page. Did you ever see the Da Vinci Code? I never did...but I heard it was pretty lame.

    I too love fantasy--Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia rock!--so I am interesting in seeing the movie. Probably not in theaters, but at least a rental.

    And good call on not taking the kids, there's a balance between protecting children and having them carefully engage their world. You wouldn't want to take a 5-year-old to see some rated-R movie so you could have a discussion afterwards! That would be the other side of lacking of discernment.

  4. thanks joel for speaking out on this. I agree with you, while a lot of Christians that I know personally are telling me that I shouldn't see it, I think that Christians NEED to see it in order to even be valid critics. The movie will still be a display of God through creativity and art at its base level. Even if it does prompt atheistic themes we can hate what is evil in the story and cling to what is good in the story.

  5. I saw The Da Vinci Code opening weekend. I can definitely tell that the book would be very entertaining to read. Lots of twists and turns; the type of stuff I love reading/watching. The film isn't terrible, but it's nothing special either. Worth a watch or two.

  6. Hmmm... as I thought, Rotten Tomatoes has TGC at 44% right now. Not very impressive, so I doubt I'll be seeing this one in the theatres. Might be download worthy.